After a disappointing 2017 season, the Blue Devils looked to put the past behind them with a deep team. 

But even after a strong showing at this week’s Southern Scuffle, Duke’s performance at the Carolina Duals shows that it has a long way to go if it wants to be a force in the dual meet season.

The Blue Devils competed in their second event of 2018 in Chapel Hill Friday in the Carolina Duals, taking on three opponents. Despite standout performances from No. 5 heavyweight Jacob Kasper and redshirt juniors Mitch and Zach Finesilver, Duke struggled in the lower weight divisions, falling 23-20 to Army, 34-7 to Wyoming and 26-14 to American.

“We got exposed in some ways,” Blue Devil head coach Glen Lanham told “We're a better tournament team, obviously. We're just young in a lot of ways. When you're young and not wrestling confidently, that showed today. We need to get these guys over the hump where they get some good college wrestling in and figure it out.”

Duke’s closest contest of the day came from its opening match against the Black Knights, but the Blue Devils came up short by one decision.

Duke built a sizeable lead out of the gates, notching a fall and two decisions in the opening three bouts. Redshirt sophomore Brandon Leynaud got a pin in 2:54 against Knox Fuller to put the Blue Devils up by six early, and No. 10 Mitch Finesilver secured the 157 weight class with an easy 6-0 decision to put Duke up by another three.

Although Zach Finesilver initially struggled at 165 pounds against Cael McCormick, the Blue Devil scored a takedown in the final 20 seconds to secure a decision and give Duke a sizeable 12-point cushion. But after the Blue Devils forfeited the 174-pound bout to put Army on the board with six, things began to spiral out of control.

Freshman Kaden Russell found himself outmatched at 184 pounds, falling 18-0 and granting the Black Knights a technical fall to put Army just one point behind. Senior Alec Schenk notched the Blue Devils a decision with just one point at 197, and Kasper dominated the Black Knights' Robert Heald 15-0 to give Duke a technical fall.

But they were the last Blue Devils to score. 

Chipping away at a 20-11 Duke lead, Army notched a decision, a seven-minute technical fall and a major decision in the 125, 133 and 141 to pull in front in the last bout and deny the Blue Devils an early win.

Things didn’t get much better from there for Duke. Against the Cowboys—a team with nationally ranked wrestlers in the 157, 165, 133 and 141—Schenk and Kasper were the only Blue Devils to come out victorious with a decision and a major decision, respectively. 

Although Mitch Finesilver held a close contest to No. 16 Archie Colgan, Wyoming's star notched a reversal in overtime to take the match 3-2. Kasper, Schenk and freshman Josh Finsilver—who fell 19-9 against 12th-ranked Montorie Bridges in the 133—were the only Blue Devils to score more than three points in their bouts against the Cowboys, while Mitch Finesilver was the only Duke wrestler to fall by a point margin of fewer than five points.

“Definitely, we've got some work to do for sure,” Lanham said. “Obviously, the Wyoming match was definitely out of reach, but in the American match we could've shown better and in the Army match we could've won that one. We've got to get back to work.”

Facing the potential of an ugly 0-3 tournament showing, the Blue Devils fought hard to keep the Eagles at bay.

Although American pulled ahead early with No. 18 Michael Sprague notching a major decision against Leynaud, the Finesilver twins responded with a decision in the 157 and a major decision at 165, putting Duke up 7-4. 

Although the Eagles were gifted six points off a forfeit in the 174, freshman Kaden Russell notched his first win of the day with a 13-4 major decision against Michael Eckhart in the 184. Schenk fell to No. 12 Jeric Kasunic 8-0, but Kasper found his 21st win of the season against Brett Dempsey to knot the match at 14 apiece.

But once again, Duke’s lower weight division imploded. 

Kasper was the last Blue Devil to score for the evening, with American notching a decision, a major decision and a technical fall in the 125, 133 and 141, respectively.

Duke will continue its season next Sunday in Greeley, Colo., where the Blue Devils will take on Cal State Bakersfield at 1 p.m. followed by Northern Colorado at 3 p.m.

“We're at the Southern Scuffle and then two days later we're out here wrestling against some really tough competition, but that's the way the national tournament is," Lanham said. "I'd like to win the duals, but we've got to train for March and that's what we train for. That's why we do these things. I feel like it's important to feel that.”